Menu
Microsoft extends SmartScreen browsing protection to foil malvertising and exploit kits

Microsoft extends SmartScreen browsing protection to foil malvertising and exploit kits

The technology can now block websites or malicious ads that try to exploit vulnerabilities in popular software

Microsoft SmartScreen, the phishing and malware filtering technology built into Internet Explorer, Edge and Windows, has now been updated to block Web-based attacks that silently exploit software vulnerabilities to infect computers.

Such attacks are known as drive-by downloads, because they don't require user interaction aside from browsing to a malicious website or a legitimate one that has been compromised.

To launch such attacks, hackers use tools known as exploit kits that take advantage of vulnerabilities in the OS, the browser, or popular software like Flash Player, Silverlight and Java.

While exploit kits typically target vulnerabilities after they have been patched by software vendors, there have been cases when they've exploited previously unknown flaws that are known in the security industry as zero-days. In addition, the time window between when patches are released and when attackers start targeting the fixed flaws has significantly shrunk in recent years, giving users less time to update.

According to Microsoft, this year exploit kit authors have integrated exploits for 4 new vulnerabilities within 30 days after they were patched, for 6 flaws within 10 days, and for 5 before they even had a fix available.

A popular method of targeting users' browsers with exploit kits is through malicious advertisements displayed on popular websites, or malvertising.

While ad networks have been trying to prevent such abuse for years, attackers still manage to find ways around their defenses because of the highly complex nature of the online advertising ecosystem where ads can pass through five or more intermediaries before they reach a user's browser.

With the latest update for Windows 10, Microsoft has extended SmartScreen to block drive-by attacks in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11, the Microsoft Edge Team said Wednesday in a blog post.

The new capability is based on the security intelligence that Microsoft receives from multiple products such as Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Bing, Windows Defender and the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

Thanks to this data, which includes behavioral telemetry, SmartScreen can even detect attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities, according to Microsoft.

For example, in December last year, Defender and EMET picked up new exploits that were targeting millions of users through malicious ads, the company said. Those exploits were part of an exploit kit called HanJuan and were targeting a previously unknown vulnerability in Flash Player that was later reported to Adobe and patched.

When SmartScreen blocks drive-by download attacks, it will display a red warning instead of the Web page that the user is trying to access, or inside a frame on that Web page. That's because the technology can selectively block malicious ads loaded inside HTML frames on legitimate websites, while letting users interact with the rest of the content of those websites.

"When drive-by attacks target vulnerabilities that have already been fixed in popular software, your browser, or your operating system, it’s vital that you install security updates when they become available," the Microsoft Edge Team said.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2015 and 2016 inductees - Darryl Swann, Dave Rosenberg, Gary Bigwood, Keith Watson, Mike Hill and Scott Green - to the inaugural Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed how the channel can collectively work together to benefit New Zealand, the Kiwi skills shortage and the future of the industry. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch
Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

​As the channel changes and industry voices deepen, the need for clarity and insight heightens. Market misconceptions talk of an “under pressure” distribution space, with competitors in that fateful “race for relevance” across New Zealand. Amidst the cliched assumptions however, distribution is once again showing its strength, as a force to be listened to, rather than questioned. Traditionally, the role was born out of a need for vendors and resellers to find one another, acting as a bridge between the testing lab and the marketplace. Yet despite new technologies and business approaches shaking the channel to its very core, distributors remain tied to the epicentre - providing the voice of reason amidst a seismic industry shift. In looking across both sides of the vendor and partner fences, the middle concept of the three-tier chain remains centrally placed to understand the metrics of two differing worlds, as the continual pulse checkers of the local channel. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable, in association with Dicker Data and rhipe, examined the pivotal role of distribution in understanding the health of the channel, educating from the epicentre as the market transforms at a rapid rate.

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel
Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar last night, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and resellers descending on The Jefferson in Auckland to kickstart 2017. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017
Show Comments